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Opinion: California Rejects Federal Water Proposal, Lays Out its Vision for Protecting Endangered Species and Meeting State Water Needs

California’s water policy can be complex, and—let’s be honest—often polarizing.

Water decisions frequently get distilled into unhelpful narratives of fish versus farms, north versus south, or urban versus rural. Climate change-driven droughts and flooding threats, as well as our divided political climate, compound these challenges.

We must rise above these historic conflicts by finding ways to protect our environment and build water security for communities and agriculture. We need to embrace decisions that benefit our entire state. Simply put, we have to become much more innovative, collaborative and adaptive.

 

Jon Foreman of the San Diego band Switchfoot is among the many fans of The Water Conservation Garden in San Diego's East County. Photo: Water Authority

Water Conservation Garden Celebrates 20th Anniversary Nov. 16

Twenty years ago, people who saw a need to help people conserve water and preserve San Diego’s environment conceived the idea for a demonstration garden.

The Water Conservation Garden celebrates its 20th-anniversary Saturday, November 16 at 5 p.m. with a benefit concert featuring food and drink stations, dancing, auction items and live music provided by The Mighty Untouchables. More information and tickets are available on The Garden’s website.

Native San Diegan Jon Foreman of the Grammy-award winning band Switchfoot is among The Garden’s newest fans after a recent visit.

“It has been an amazing journey,” said CEO Jennifer Pillsbury. “We run six acres with educational exhibits for the public, but we also have a huge education program for the public. Last year we had 42,000 visitors and reached 88,000 kids. When we first opened, we were excited about 1,000 visitors.”

Water agencies and municipalities worked together to bring The Garden to life

The annual Spring Garden and Butterfly Festival is among The Garden's most popular annual events. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

The annual Spring Garden and Butterfly Festival is among The Garden’s most popular annual events. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

A task force of water agencies and municipalities conceived The Garden in response to six years of drought in San Diego County.

Otay Water District, Helix Water District, and Cuyamaca College kick-started the effort in 1990. By 1992, the San Diego County Water Authority, City of San Diego, and Padre Municipal Water District joined the effort, forming the original Water Conservation Authority.

The following year, the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District approved the establishment of a 4.5-acre Water Conservation Garden adjacent to Cuyamaca College. With $700,000 in donated services, products, and labor from local nurseries and members of the California Landscape Contractors Association, the Water Conservation Garden came to life. San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob presided over its grand opening in May 1999.

Over the past 20 years, The Garden has added its popular children’s exhibits, bird and butterfly gardens, the Dorcus Utter Memorial Sensory Garden, and the Dorcus Butterfly Pavilion.

“The Garden is here to inspire everyone to use all natural resources efficiently, not just water,” said Pillsbury. “When people see proper irrigation and the right plants in the right location with the right soil, having everything working together can be beautiful and efficient.”

Inspiring positive change in the living environment

Pam Meisner, also known as Ms. Smarty-Plants, started the conservation program in 2008 at the Water Conservation Garden. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

Pam Meisner, also known as Ms. Smarty-Plants, started the conservation program in 2008 at the Water Conservation Garden. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

The Water Conservation Garden has been governed as an independent nonprofit organization under its own Board of Directors since 2011. Memberships, donations, grants, facility rentals, gift shop sales, and water district dues fund operations.

With additional land donated by Cuyamaca College, The Water Conservation Garden now covers six acres of displays showcasing water conservation through its themed demonstration gardens and how-to displays on mulch and irrigation.

Students in the Cuyamaca College Ornamental Horticulture program benefit from hands-on education just steps away from their classrooms.

“Students come through and learn plant identification and experience lab learning,” said Pillsbury.

New smart classroom available soon at The Garden

The Garden's amphitheater seats 300 and will host its 20th anniversary benefit concert on Nov. 16. Photo: Water Conservation Garden

The Garden’s amphitheater seats 300 and will host its 20th-anniversary benefit concert on Nov. 16. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

The Garden will open a new smart classroom available for business retreats, meetings, and seminars. Pillsbury also hopes to book more events in the 300-seat amphitheater.

Through its evolution and innovation, the mission of The Water Conservation Garden remains the same as it did on its opening day 20 years ago: to inspire positive change in the living environment through water conservation and the protection of natural resources.

“We’re here to educate the community on efficient water use, but we also want to be a spot where people can come learn and explore together in so many ways,” said Pillsbury.

Admission to The Garden is free. Docent-led tours take place on the first Saturday of each month at 10 a.m.

San Diego County Now Offering Discounted Rain ‘Harvesting’ Barrels

The rainy season is coming, but you still have time to get a discounted rain barrel to “harvest” the upcoming rains, cut your watering costs and protect local beaches by reducing pollution. Through Oct. 13, County residents can get a discounted, top-of-the-line, $90 Ivy rain barrel — a cost that could shrink to as little as $25 — by ordering one online, thanks to San Diego County’s Watershed Protection Program and the nonprofit Solana Center.

The First Rain of the Season Arrives in LA. But Don’t Get Excited – It’s Just a Drizzle

Dust off your windshield wipers, L.A. The first rain of the season dripped from the skies Thursday morning, sprinkling morning commuters.

Extreme fire warnings across California have officially expired, thanks to a slight chance of light rain through Saturday, with low clouds and much cooler temperatures than in the last few days, said Tom Fisher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Logo landscape design workshops

Learn How to Save Water and Money at OMWD’s Free Composting Workshop

Encinitas, Calif. —Olivenhain Municipal Water District is offering a Basics of Backyard Composting and Vermicomposting workshop to the general public to promote water use efficiency. OMWD will hold the free workshop on Tuesday, October 8 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve’s Interpretive Center Honoring Susan. J. Varty.

Padre Dam Demonstration Facility-Padre Dam MWD photo

California Moves To Boost Recycled Water

A new plan recommends four strategies to advance water reuse in California over the next three decades – an important part of both the state and regional water resilience portfolio.

The California WateReuse Action Plan includes a comprehensive set of proposed actions that will more than double the use of water recycling in California and help prepare the state for the impacts of climate change, according to WateReuse California, which released the plan in July.

But getting to that goal will require several steps, including: Completing research to advance water recycling and potable reuse; developing and streamlining recycled water regulations and permitting; increasing grant and loan opportunities to expand recycled water infrastructure; and, implementing integrated regional planning.

The U.S. EPA is developing a similar plan to advance water reuse nationwide.

California WateReuse Action Plan

The California WateReuse Action Plan recommends strategies for increasing water recycling statewide. Graphic: WateReuse California

San Diego water agencies collaborate on plan

Recycled water is expected to be the next major source of local water supply for the San Diego region – and the region has a long history of working together toward that goal.

The San Diego County Water Authority collaborated with its member agencies to provide feedback on the plan’s development.

“We appreciate how this new plan aims to increase water supply diversification, including recycled water,” said Lesley Dobalian, principal water resources specialist with the Water Authority, and a contributor to the final action plan.

“Within the next 15 years, potable reuse and recycled water is projected to make up more than a quarter of San Diego County’s supply, but reaching our potential will depend in part on statewide implementation of the plan’s key findings,” Dobalian said.

Increasing San Diego County's Water Supply Reliability through Supply Diversification

Recycled water and potable reuse are forecast to make up 26% of San Diego County’s water supply by 2035. Graphic: San Diego County Water Authority

Water Resilience Portfolio

In July, the Water Authority Board endorsed Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order N-10-19, directing development of a water resilience portfolio approach that meets the needs of California through the 21st century.

On July 18, state officials toured San Diego County water infrastructure to see the region’s successful water portfolio approach for supply diversification, as they work to create the statewide water resilience portfolio.

In San Diego County, several agencies are developing or expanding water recycling plans, including the City of San Diego, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, Helix Water District, the City of Oceanside, and several additional projects in North County.

National water reuse action plan

At the national level, EPA is also developing a Water Reuse Action Plan, or WRAP, to advance water reuse. The Water Authority met with its member agencies and submitted comments to the U.S. EPA for the WRAP.

A draft WRAP is expected to be released by the federal agency at the national WateReuse Association Symposium September 8-11 in San Diego.

“California is widely recognized as a national and world leader in water recycling,” according to the California WateReuse Action Plan. “Recycled water supplies offset approximately 9% of the state’s urban water demands and agricultural reuse provides reliable water supplies for farmers throughout the state.”

WateReuse California Symposium Sept. 8-10 in San Diego

The U.S. EPA plans to release a draft Water Reuse Action Plan to advance water reuse, at the national WateReuse Association Symposium September 8-10 in San Diego.

Third grader Jeeanna Mendoza fro, Camarena Elementary School, won first place in the Otay Water District student poster contest in the K-3 category. Photo: Otay Water District

Otay Student Poster Contest Winners Illustrate Importance of Water-Use Efficiency

Six talented elementary school students were recognized on August 7 by the Otay Water District Board of Directors as the winners of the District’s “Water is Life” Student Poster Contest.

As one of the Otay Water District’s educational programs, the contest offers an opportunity for students to showcase their creativity while reflecting on the importance of using water efficiently in their daily lives. Students were encouraged to illustrate the value of water used both inside and outside the home as an informational poster intended to educate others.

“We’re proud to offer students this opportunity to have fun and be creative, while at the same time thinking and learning about water conservation,” said Otay Water District General Manager Mark Watton.

More than 245 students from 10 different schools in the District’s service area submitted entries. The District judged the entries based on categories in two grade categories: kindergarten through third grade, and fourth through sixth grade. First, second and third prize winners were chosen from each category.

Winners received an award certificate, gift card, art kit, and a goodie bag filled with District promotional items. The lucky first place winners in each category also received a pizza party for their entire class.

The six posters winners were submitted by students in the Chula Vista Elementary School District.

jeeanna Mendoza, Grade 3, Camarena Elementary School (first place; K-3)

Jeeanna Mendoza, Grade 3, Camarena Elementary School (first place; K-3). Photo: Otay Water District

  • Jeeanna Mendoza, Grade 3, Camarena Elementary School (First Place; K-3)

Amerie Constantino, Grade 1, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (second place; K-3). Photo: Otay Water District

Amerie Constantino, Grade 1, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (second place; K-3). Photo: Otay Water District

  • Amerie Constantino, Grade 1, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (Second Place; K-3)

Miguel-Angel Gonzalez, Grade 2, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (third place; K -3). Photo: Otay Water District

  • Miguel-Angel Gonzalez, Grade 2, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (Third Place; K-3)

Maya Santana, Grade 5, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (first place; 4-6). Photo: Otay Water District

Maya Santana, Grade 5, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (first place; 4-6). Photo: Otay Water District

  • Maya Santana, Grade 5, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (First Place; 4-6)

Malayiah Williams, Grade 5, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (Second Place; 4-6). Photo: Otay Water District

Malayiah Williams, Grade 5, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (Second Place; 4-6). Photo: Otay Water District

  • Malayiah Williams, Grade 5, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (Second Place; 4-6)

Rin Smith, Grade 5, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (Third Place; 4-6). Photo: Otay Water District

Rin Smith, Grade 5, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (Third Place; 4-6). Photo: Otay Water District

  • Rin Smith, Grade 5, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (Third Place; 4-6)

Otay Water District winners advance to regional contest

In addition, according to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s 2020 Student Art Calendar Contest rules, the District submitted five of the six winning posters to MWD’s contest. MWD will select 36 posters from its overall regional entries to be displayed in its 2020 “Water is Life” calendar. The winners will be honored at a student art exhibit and recognition event in December.

To learn more about the Otay Water District’s “Water is Life” Student Poster Contest, go to otaywater.gov/education.

READ MORE: San Diego County Students Inspire Water Conservation Through Art

Is It Too Late to Save Wild Salmon?

Some of the world’s most famous conservationists have been hunters. Teddy Roosevelt, John James Audubon, and Ernest Hemingway each have the somewhat dubious distinction of saving animals’ habitats to try to kill them. Pacific salmon aren’t often mentioned alongside Roosevelt’s elephants or Hemingway’s tigers, but in Tucker Malarkey’s Stronghold (Random House, $28), fish is the biggest game of all. Malarkey’s protagonist is a charming misfit named Guido Rahr, who also happens to be her cousin. A naturalist almost as soon as he could walk, Rahr got hooked on fly fishing in his late teens, only to realize, to his horror, that the hydroelectric dams, agricultural runoff, commercial fishing industry, deforestation, and climate change in the Pacific Northwest could bring wild salmon to extinction.

The Nieves family of Bonita are the winners of the Sweetwater Authority's 2019 Landscape Makeover Contest for theier creative WaterSmart landscaping design. Photo: Sweetwater Authority Creative WaterSmart Landscaping

Creative WaterSmart Landscaping Wins Sweetwater Authority’s 2019 Landscape Contest

Bonita residents Efren and Ily Niervas won the Sweetwater Authority 2019 Landscape Contest after transforming their front yard from a traditional thirsty expanse of lawn to a WaterSmart landscaping approach.

When the Niervas moved to their home in 2017, they realized the cost of watering their yard, with a large lawn and assorted shrubbery, was too high. They decided to change their landscape and attended home improvement events and expos as part of their research. They also did online research. The research paid off, as the Niervas thoughtfully designed their own xeriscape plan for their creative watersmart landscaping.

Creative hardscapes and colorful plant palette transform landscaping

Before: The Nieves' landscaping prior to undertaking their award-winning, watersmart redesign project. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Before: The Niervas’ landscaping prior to undertaking their award-winning, watersmart redesign project. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

With the design in hand, the Niervas began work on making the landscape transformation themselves. They purchased plants on sale, and collected small cuttings and succulents from friends and neighbors.

Knowing the soil in the yard was dry and hard, they patiently waited for wetter and softer conditions in the fall months to begin working on their yard. The landscape transformation was finally complete in March 2019. The Niervas are thrilled with the beautiful, water-saving results.

After: The stunning results of the landscaping transformation. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

After: The stunning results of the landscape transformation. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Creative watersmart landscaping

The yard design features swales in the form of rock-lined dry creek beds, which capture rainwater from roofs, driveways, and other hard surfaces to slow it down, spread it out, and allow the water to sink into the soil. Lighted flagstone pathways wind through the yard.

The design features a diverse palette of succulents, cacti, and California native plants. The Niervas completed their yard décor with beautiful ceramic containers, gazing balls, and whimsical artwork including starfish and a peacock.

The homeowners completed their yard décor with beautiful ceramic containers, gazing balls, and whimsical artwork including starfish and a peacock. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

San Diego County homeowners can take advantage of free landscaping makeover classes offered by the San Diego County Water Authority to help plan to create a colorful and watersmart landscape. Go tot the WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program

A diverse palette of colorful succulents, cacti, and California native plants add to the winning design. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

A diverse palette of colorful succulents, cacti, and California native plants add to the winning design. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

READ MORE: Winning Vista Irrigation District WaterSmart Landscape Reduces Water Use

Colorful, waterwise plants replaced a thirsty, labor intensive front lawn in Deborah Brant's winning landscape makeover. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Winning Vista Irrigation District WaterSmart Landscape Reduces Water Use

Vista resident Deborah Brandt showed how attractive water-wise landscaping can be when low-water use plants are combined with other landscape components in winning the Vista Irrigation District’s 2019 WaterSmart Landscape Contest. District officials selected Brandt’s entry this month among many quality entries received.

The Vista Irrigation District is among 13 San Diego member agencies with landscape contests in 2019 with the goal of showcasing beautiful residential water-wise landscapes throughout the region.

Outdoor watering accounts for more than half of the residential water use in San Diego County. Homeowners can significantly reduce outdoor watering by replacing a thirsty lawn with water‑wise landscaping. While Internet research or visiting a local nursery for ideas are both helpful, seeing examples of residential garden makeovers can provide inspiration and motivation.

Contrasting watersmart elements and textures transform yard

Deborah Brandt's winning landscape includes contrasting elements, such a cactus, river rock and wood chips, against a backdrop of dramatic magenta, purple and striking orange. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Deborah Brandt’s winning landscape includes contrasting elements, such a cactus, river rock and wood chips, against a backdrop of dramatic magenta, purple and striking orange. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Brandt replaced her water and maintenance-intensive lawn with WaterSmart landscaping to save money and water, and reduce the amount of time she spent on yard work. By including contrasting elements such as cactus, river rock and wood chips, against a backdrop of dramatic magenta, purple and striking orange, Brandt transformed a basic lawn into a dazzling array of textures and colors.

Brandt chose low maintenance plant varieties, including agaves, yuccas, Sea Lavender, Calandrinia Grandiflora, and ‘Sticks on Fire’ (also called ‘Firesticks’), that grow easily and require little care or trimming, providing her landscape “year round colorful contrast of form, shape and color.”

By showcasing her water-wise landscape, Brandt is providing other homeowners with great ideas about how to make their yards attractive and use less water. Photo: Vista Irrigation District Winning Vista Irrigtion District

By showcasing her water-wise landscape, Brandt is providing other homeowners with great ideas about how to make their yards attractive and use less water. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Brandt admits she has enjoyed receiving so many compliments on her yard transformation from friends and neighbors. By showcasing her water-wise landscape, Brandt is providing other homeowners with great ideas about how to make their yards attractive and use less water.

Deborah Brandt's front yard before its makeover. Photo: Vista Irrigation District Winning Vista Irrigtion District

Deborah Brandt’s front yard before its makeover. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

For more information about the 2020 contest open to customers of the Vista Irrigation District and 12 other member agencies in San Diego County, along with examples of award-winning WaterSmart landscaping, go to https://landscapecontest.com/

Homeowners can take advantage of free landscaping makeover classes offered by the Water Authority to help plan and execute your own transformation. Visit the WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program website for the schedule and to register.

READ MORE: Colorful Carlsbad Water-Efficient Garden Wins Olivenhain MWD 2019 Landscape Contest